While it still might not feel real, it is: the Los Angeles Lakers will play the Denver Nuggets — not the LA Clippers — in the Western Conference Finals, which will begin on Friday.
The Lakers won their regular season series with the Nuggets 3-1, with their only loss coming on a night when LeBron James was sidelined with a muscle strain. The Lakers lost 128-104.
The Nuggets might be on a different level than they were in the regular season, but the oddsmakers still favor the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Lakers are betting favorites to win the series at -625. The Nuggets’ line is +450.
That’s a stark contrast from the betting lines in the east. The Boston Celtics’ line is set at +132 and Miami Heat’s is set at -162. The Heat won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.
The Lakers are also betting favorites to win it all, with a betting line of -200. The Heat have the next-best betting line (+400), followed by the Celtics (+400) and then finally the Nuggets (+900).
Not every model has the Lakers going the distance, though. On Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight updated their 2019-20 NBA Predictions, which are based on player RAPTOR ratings, and the Lakers have the third-best chance of winning the Finals (16%) behind the Celtics (43%) and the Heat (29%). The Nuggets have the lowest chance at 12%, which is only 4% chance worse than the Lakers.
That’s not to say the Lakers are still being doubted, but if someone on the team needed an arbitrary reason to have a chip on their shoulder going into the final stretch of the playoff run, they could start there.
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